When you think of chickens, you might envision a gorgeous rusty brown Rhode Island Red with a bright red comb and wattle.
Being one of the most prolific egg layers makes these chickens one of the most popular farm animals to have.
Originating from Rhode Island, these robust birds are one of the earliest chicken breeds in America.
But before diving into ownership, you need to know about breeding Rhode Island Red chickens and raising them.
Rhode Island Reds are a gentle breed and one of the best for new chicken owners. They lay nice, large brown eggs, are hardy against disease, and are easy to raise. These birds are best known as prolific layers, though they were first known as a dual-purpose breed.
If you’ve ever raised these chickens, you will know they are some of the more low-maintenance and pleasant animals to have around!
Rhode Island Reds are especially favorable to those who have children, although roosters can get quite territorial.
Raising Rhode Island Red chickens is advantageous and will provide your family with eggs consistently for years to come.
Raising And Breeding Rhode Islands
Once your Rhode Island Red hen reaches approximately 16 weeks old, she may start to lay eggs.
More often than not, however, most hens start laying between 18 and 20 weeks.
Per year, your hens could lay anywhere between a solid 150 eggs to an impressive 300 eggs!
Most Rhode Island Red hens lay 5-6 eggs a week; the eggs are large in size and have a lovely rich brown color.
Unfortunately, mating chickens is not a pretty process, regardless of breed.
Though fairly quick, mating can often result in damaged feathers and slight injury to the hen.
Roosters should be removed from the area once mated if they cause problems.
When the fertilized egg is laid, you then need to incubate it.
A fertilized egg will not develop an embryo and hatch unless incubated properly.
When hatched, feed your chick a good starter feed like this one.
Ensure it gets enough calcium so the shells will be sufficiently fortified when they start laying eggs.
After spending their first week inside, you’re allowed to let your chicks outside (unless it’s winter!).
But make sure you keep the chicks and the rest of the flock separate for about 5 more weeks after this.
The roosters are known to be fairly territorial; however, a group of hens is less aggressive towards one another.
Though hens are not known to snatch eggs from other nests, there’s still a risk of some tension between the flock at times.
In chickens, going broody typically means the hen’s body temperature increases so she can provide proper warmth for her nest.
This also means she may consume less food and water than normal and get agitated when you interfere with her nest, so watch out!
Like all animals, chicken’s bodies signal them when it’s time to procreate.
A male lets a female know he is ready to mate with her by doing a mating dance, to which a female will lower her head if she accepts his advances.
Even though it’s an infrequent event compared to other breeds of chicken, these hens become dedicated to their nest when they become broody.
Rhode Island Red hens are excellent yet tentative mothers devoted to making sure their young grow happy and strong!
More Reading: Do Rhode Island Reds Go Broody?
Origins of the Rhode Island Red
For more than 150 years, Rhode Island Red chickens have roamed American soil.
This breed is descended from the Malay rooster and the brown Leghorn bird from Italy and was introduced to Rhode Island in 1854.
Added to the American Poultry Association 50 years later, in 1904, Rhode Island Reds have been recognized as a sophisticated yet convenient breed to keep on your farm for generations.
They are still chosen for their egg-laying properties to this day!
At first, this commercial breed was used not only because of their efficiency in egg laying but also because they were good for meat.
This is why we call them dual-purpose birds.
As time went on, however, most of the genes about how much meat the commercial bird provided were bred out to prioritize egg-laying genes.
The breed was split into two groups initially during breeding.
The production bird variety became extremely important in industrial farming, while the heritage bird variety was normally kept on the homestead as a meat bird.
Heritage strains are less common now as the need for more eggs per week outweighed the value of the meat.
Sadly, due to the popularity of more commercially utilized breeds, Rhode Island Reds are listed on the Livestock Conservatory as under watch.
If you want a pure Rhode Island Red, find a small local breeder specializing in the breed specifically.
Keeping Your Rhode Island Red Safe and Healthy
Rhode Island Reds are easy to take care of and raise, but chickens have a lot of natural predators and can fall ill to various diseases.
But good news!
Rhode Island Reds are one of the heartier and healthier breeds!
Known to be able to withstand the extreme weather conditions of New England, Reds are resistant to heat and cold, and they also are great foragers who can frequently find a good portion of their diet just by pecking at the ground in search of bugs, seeds, etc.
Despite rarely getting sick, Rhode Island Reds are just as susceptible to mites and lice, just like any other chicken, if you don’t clean them regularly or give them a place to bathe themselves.
Make sure to routinely check your flock for these pests!
Also, check their single comb for changes.
A rose comb is ideal, and if it changes rapidly, something is wrong.
Good backyard chicken keepers need to be aware of personality, appearance, and activity changes, which signals illness in adult chickens.
In terms of housing, provide your chickens with a chicken coop to take shelter from predators and extreme weather.
While these are cold hardy birds, it’s better to always provide a warm chicken coop to help them escape the cold winter months.
Further Reading: What’s too cold for Rhode Island Red chickens?
Rhode Island Reds also like a little space, so make sure either the coop is large enough for them to have adequate space, or if your coop is smaller, give them lots of roaming space outside.
Natural predators of chickens are very common in almost all areas of the US.
Some predators of chickens include, but aren’t limited to;
- Birds of prey
- Large snakes